So, it occurred to me that some of you may be wondering…why Rainbow on Fire?! Well, here is the answer…during a class one morning in which I was speaking passionately about my teaching philosophy, my colleague Brandon said to me, “Courtney, you remind me of that commercial…you’re not just a rainbow, you’re a rainbow on fire” Hahaha, he was referring to the impression of puppy dogs, rainbows, etc. that I sometimes radiate, but making that point that I was more than that. I was more than “happy”/”whistle a tune”…that there was substance…FIRE! Clearly, I took to this idea…and after seeing the video clip that inspired his comment, I kinda fell in love with it a little…
How to measure success…I feel a constant pull within me when I think about this last workshop at the high school and determining the success of it. I suppose it is just much more complicated than simply saying, success/failure. There WERE successes. The students used the tools of theatre to express themselves, they began discussing issues/topics around them that concerned them/interested them, and they let go (a little) of the idea that there was a “right/wrong” answer when it came to interpreting an image or scene. Where I hesitate to simply slap the label of “success” on this workshop is when I think about the groups who refused to communicate or cooperate with one another and the very muddy/unclear points of view in the final presentations. It isn’t so much that there wasn’t a point of view, but the students were not intentional with it…which is a huge part of the theatre of the oppressed techniques.
Interestingly, the students were all somewhat saddened that it was my last session with them, which struck me…they put up such resistance in the beginning….then slightly less…but there were a few who were resistant up to the end….and yet, they expressed sorrow at the thought of not continuing this work. That encouraged me. I left evaluations for all of them to fill out and I’m anxious to see what input that have for me…trying hard to prepare myself for whatever comments may zip by my way.
Anyhoo…back to the subject…I suppose, looking back on this experience I would probably more generally consider it a success, choosing to look at the positive steps that were made and utilizing the road bumps along the way as areas for improvement. I also consider it a success when I think about the relationship that was formed with the students – they did grow to respect me, and my respect for them was deepened.
So…I’m sitting here…getting ready to go back into the high school classroom that frustrated me so last week…and I’m trying to prepare myself. To say that I’m not a bit scared would be a lie, yet…I’m ready to go back in. I’m ready to see if this new plan of action will work…or will it fail gloriously in a new fashion and push me to produce something else? All I know is…I can’t walk in there with the slightest bit of fear showing, but I also can’t walk in there like I own the place. I don’t. I don’t even “reside” there, if you will. I’m a visitor. I must be humble. Humble and committed and open…here goes
Working with the kids from Evans H.S. again today…and again, I had varying levels of interest in the groups and success. By the end of each of the classes, I did have MOST of the students involved/invested…but, even then…there was a sense of removal.
When I begin most of the classes there are the handful of students who are interested and participating…then there are the students who go through the motions but are intellectually checked out from me…and then…then there are the students who are like stones. They are purposefully stolid…almost dramatically so. They are making a statement. A statement that says, “I don’t trust you. I don’t need you. I don’t need this.” They sit through the first part of class (sometimes ALL of it) pretending to not care. I say pretending because…because I just can’t believe that they actually don’t. We are talking about their lives – whats important to them…really? They don’t care about that?!?! I doubt it. =)
So then…how do I break past that front? Is time the only answer? – I do believe that I can establish a trust with them over time, that they will be able to witness that I am genuine and earnest….but is there something else? I currently do not allow them to be disrespectful to me, but…I do not force them to participate. I don’t make a big deal out of it, I just allow those students to sit and be and HOPE that they are paying more attention than they are letting on.
I did have a moment yesterday. A moment when it all got to me and I chose to share that moment with the students. It scared me a bit, but…upon reflection I am glad that I did. Suddenly the wall dropped with the whole class and…and I spoke up about it. I asked them what they were doing here…how often an adult comes into their classroom and genuinely gives them the floor to discuss issues that are important to them…how often an adult gives them free reign to investigate any and everything they come up with…I asked them why they didn’t care to share their voices and ideas…I pondered why I cared so much if they seemingly didn’t…and there was silence. I looked at them. Waiting. Finally I asked, “So what now?” and a student who had been checked out the whole time looked at me wide-eyed and asked, “Are you for real or were you just playing?” I smiled and asked him what part of this looked like a game for me…and then another girl in the front of the room said, “We can talk about anything we want?” and I said YES!! …and a discussion began…and an activation scene was begun involving a teenage girl having to tell her boyfriend that she was pregnant ( a situation I later found out was actually something that one of the students was going through).
What I wonder is….was that outburst from me necessary to get their attention? Will I always have to be pushed to that level to be able to gain their trust…even for a short time. I don’t have any grand delusions that they will walk in next Wednesday awaiting with open arms…
How do I break through the apathy? How do I gain their trust? If time is the only way…and I only have 3 more guaranteed sessions with them, are those sessions somehow doomed? …I can’t accept that. I will find something, some way…
I completed the first day of a 5 day residency with high school students today. This is a residency I created as a result of an Arts-Integration Workshop I took part in with the Kennedy Center back in the fall. My focus is to work with high school students, introducing them to the concepts of theatre for social change and the idea of active citizenship. Needless to say…I’m excited about it. I’m excited to share these ideas and, whats more…I’m SUPER excited to hear THEIRS…
…that said…I worked with three classes today, all with varying degrees of interest and willingness to participate. Actually, a lot of breakthroughs were had and there was a wonderful discussion on the difference between empathy and sympathy….realizations that life becomes complicated because it isn’t “just you” out there trying to achieve your goals, but a WORLD of people trying to reach their goals and how do those sometimes present added challenges. It was invigorating and definitely makes me excited to see what comes up in class this friday when we move on to conflict and conflict resolution =)
…What I discovered on a personal note though was that I can’t want something more for someone else than they want it for themselves…Not only will I NEVER be successful (which is frustrating), but…I shouldn’t be. I can’t force my ideas – no matter how “wonderful” and “warm” and “fuzzy” they may be on someone else. I can’t force people to fall in love with theatre and have a desire to express themselves in that form the way I do. I just can’t….and I need to remember that. Sometimes I think my fire starts to burn a bit too bright…and I need to know when to back off so no one gets burned.